Schubert: String Quintet D956; Quartettsatz D703 – review

London Guardian
By Andrew Clements
October 24, 2012

Six years ago, the Takács's first disc for Hyperion was devoted to Schubert – his A minor and D minor Quartets. Their return to that composer now, with a performance of what is arguably the greatest of all his chamber works, has been well worth the wait, for though the CD catalogue already includes a number of treasurable versions of the C major Quintet from all epochs of recording history, there is always room for one that shows the typical Takács virtues of insight and intelligence, combined with an almost supernatural unity of musical purpose.

Their performance, with Ralph Kirshbaum fitting effortlessly into the ensemble as second cellist, is never conceived as a reassuring tour around one of western music's supreme achievements. There's always an undertow of unease, and where other quartets might luxuriate more in the expansive lyricism of the opening Allegro's second subject, or dwell more pointedly on the expressive beauties of the slow movement, the Takács will have none of it. They just don't do self-indulgence or tonal beauty for its own sake and so always maintain momentum in the first movement and take the second at the upper limit of the tempo that its Adagio marking might imply. Surprisingly, they do make a point of slowing right down for the trio section of the scherzo, creating a moment of profound introspection that seems as if it is the emotional pivot of the piece, after which all the finale can do is conjure its own compromise with what has come before. It's a formidably satisfying performance, and you get the Quartettsatz, all Schubert completed of a planned C minor quartet, as an equally searching and remarkable bonus.

Original online review

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